Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Heart's Journey

By Luda Egbalic
Columban Lay Missionary
May 17, 2014

Today, I will be sent off to mission by the Columbans. I will be one of  the Columban Lay Missionaries.  My heart is filled with thanksgiving, peace and joy for it has found her rest.
I am Luda L. Egbalic, 2nd child among the 10 children of Mrs. Lucresia Luminhay Egbalic ( Talaandig tribe ) and Mr. David Fabre Egbalic ( Boholano ). I got my name from the 1st 2 letters of my parents’ names.
When I was a child, my mother would remind me to study hard so I can finish college and find a job because I was never content with what was served on the table. Life was easier when we were only four in the family but when we became ten, it became a suffering for me and my siblings. I dreamt of becoming rich so I could buy anything that I wanted, go to many places and live independently and at the same time be able to help my younger siblings too.   

I went to church every Saturday afternoon when my household chores were finished just to read lives of saints and Sunday to attend mass celebration alone. Once, I heard my father say “Magmadre man siguro ni akong anak.“ I only smiled at him after being permitted to go.  I talked to our God since my parents though provided almost everything I needed had no time for me and talk about my problems. Silently sitting on the bench and just gazing at the cross gave me comfort, strength and peace.  I owed this to our Catechist who prepared us for our first confession and communion, invited us to go to church for Sunday mass and  attend Flores de Mayo. My parents were not church-goers. My father graduated his high school from a Catholic school but he disliked going to church. I hoped that one day my family will together worship our loving God. I longed for my parents’ love, a peaceful and happy family.  I was comforted by our God and our Mother of Perpetual Help whenever I visited the church. There, when I gazed at the cross, I silently told the crucified Jesus, “When I grow up, I will help you carry your cross. I will serve you.” My relationship with my God had grown that whenever I made decisions, I consulted Him even if I couldn’t hear His voice but I had known that God had been with me in my journey. I was and am never alone in my journey. This I realized when I was a child.
With other Columban Missionaries
My parents enrolled me in a Catholic school for my secondary education. My prayer life was strengthened. Every Wednesday, I attended mass. High school life was filled with excitement and adventure but I never forgot to talk to my "boyfriend". Whenever my friends ask me if I had a boyfriend, I replied “Yes, his name is Jake ( Jesus Christ )." However, life became harder when more siblings arrived. Our youngest was born when I was in 2nd year high school. I wasn’t allowed to go out anymore with my friends because I had to take care of my siblings.  I became rebellious and told God about my complaints.  This time the more I desired to become independent.
Tertiary education came. I would have not made it if I didn’t pass the scholarship offered by the College where I finished my course, Bachelor of Elementary Education. During this stage, I was assigned lots of responsibilities.  I was active at San Isidro Cathedral as a member of the Cenacle Marian Movement and Diocesan Youth Bible Facilitators. I was the president of the Parish Youth Council and  also SK chairman in our Barangay.  I stayed outside my home most of my college life.

With classmates at the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies
I earned the trust of my parents to stay late for as long as I kept my promise to always come home even very late at night.  I became very independent since I already had my allowance from school and from the Barangay.  All these, I recognized as God’s blessings.  I was so busy with my responsibilities  in the church, school and our Barangay.  This made my relationship with my parents sour but with my God better. I was independent and I enjoyed my freedom so much. But when I went home, my parents didn't even notice it and I felt like their lost daughter. I realized I have something to process within myself.  I finally finished my studies and spent my graduation day with my friends. 

God continued to answer my prayers. Months after my graduation, I was right away offered a job as a teacher in a Kindergarten and in a Manobo Literacy Program. I worked for a year while preparing for my Licensure Examination for Teachers.  Praise God, I passed the exam. I was asked by my mother to apply at  the Department of Education (DepEd) in Bukidnon.  I listened to her advice and was hired after my 2 days application. I was happy because I made my mother happy too. Everything seemed to move very fast. More blessings came into my life. My mother as well as my eldest brother became active in our church. We went to church together although not too often. All these I considered answered prayers. Four years after working as a teacher  at DepEd with a permanent status, I resigned. I couldn’t understand and I cannot work with the immoral practices within the bureaucracy.  Some friends and administrators did not understand my decision. I was  grateful that my family respected my decision.
Year 1999. I entered the Canossian Daughters of Charity congregation as a postulant.  In my postulancy stage, I discerned and discovered that I was not for religious life.  I wanted to be a Lay Missionary abroad.  So with the Sisters’s blessings I left the convent and went home to Bukidnon.
Year 2000.  I was accepted to work in my high school alma mater, San Isidro College Grade school department as a teacher and later was promoted for Administration.  Almost 9 years later, including one year as Academic Coordinator, I resigned.  These nine years too are years of God’s graces of peace and love. I was able to reconcile with my parents. I bonded with them, felt their parental love and guidance, got closer to them and with my siblings.  During these years, I was able to make up for the lost time together with them. I was able to acknowledge that my family is the greatest treasure I have from God. I realized I love them very much and I have felt their love too.  I worked hard for them, for my siblings before myself. That was why it was very difficult to leave my comfort zones, my working and apostolate communities, my friends especially my family. I thought that working in school was my lifetime mission.  But I found myself restless.  In my discernment period, I heard God asking me “Luda, do you love me? Are you willing to let go of what you have loved now?” Many times, I ignored Him, whom I considered my “boyfriend” when I was still young. It was very difficult, painful and I was afraid to say “Yes” for I know what it meant. It took me so long to answer God.  He kept disturbing me. I was so restless, until finally, I took the risk and the courage to surrender and asked God to be the “driver” of my life with a request “Lord, please drive slowly for me. I am afraid.”
Olongapo, August 2013: Visit to the Ministry of  Sun Hee Kim, Columban Lay Missionary from Korea
Year 2009. God brought me to the Redemptorists congregation.  For four years and with peace and joy in my heart I shared my person with God’s people in my mission areas together with the Redemptorist Cebu Urban Mission team.  There were difficulties, discomforts, frustrations, failures and misunderstandings in the mission but the love of God conquered them all.  Truly, my “boyfriend” who loves me faithfully was with me. When my initial term was finished, I thought of renewing but I had uncertainties. Honestly, I love my mission with the Redemptorists, no question about it.  When I had my silence, I know that my heart’s desire was to go on mission abroad.  I told myself “ Luda,you are turning forty, can you not stay where you are now?” To answer this question, I had a three day guided retreat, and my heart said, “Keep moving, you are almost there. Do not be afraid. When you truly love, fear is overcome.”
Year 2012. I texted Columban Father Rolly Aniscal of my plan. He was abroad that time. I didn’t know how it happened but  John Din called me from Luzon and informed me that since I was in Cebu, Au Luceno will journey with me. I met Vocation Staff member Bernie Durangparang and he gave me information about the Columban Lay Missionaries. I went to Columban Patag House on December and this was my first encounter with the Columban Community. I took the test by January 2013 and waited for the result. 

Parish Mission Sending of Luda Egbalic at San Isidro Cathedral Parish, April 26, 2014. With her are Malaybalay Bishop Jose Araneta, D.D., San Isidro Parish Priest Fr. Noel Suarez, and other priests who came to show their support to Luda.
Year 2013. Praise be Jesus! I was accepted by the Columbans and started my 9 months orientation in June 2013. The orientation prepared me very well in almost all aspects of mission life.  I am not perfect but I have become a more beautiful person with and for others. I have been very blest with so many good and inspiring people. All of these, I am very grateful to God and to the  Columban Missionaries. I am filled with awe, gratitude and joy despite the pain of being separated from the many people I love. A friend said, “ You went to many congregations. Where will you go next after Columbans?” My answer was a smile. I thought of maybe, work abroad, save more money to become rich as what I dreamt when I was a child. I didn’t become rich of material things but I am rich with God’s love, gifts of persons and beautiful missionary life’s journey. When I grow old, I know I will have many inspiring stories to tell.  I do hope to forever stay a happy Lay Missionary, a humbling vocation for me. Truly, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion “Your God reigns.” Amen, my heart has found her rest in God who has loved me so faithfully. I belong to Christ, not to myself.  I will be sent with Jenanydel S. Nola to South Korea. God, Mama Mary and St. Columban, be with me always.

Luda with team mate Jenanydel Nola

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